Visiting the Bahamas
1) With Pets - You need to make sure you have sent in the “Application to Import Domestic Animals into The Commonwealth of the Bahamas” in sufficient time to receive back the Permit and Vet Certification Form. You then need to take the Vet Certification Form and your pet to a veterinarian for examination and signature. This must all be done before you enter Bahamian waters. The Customs official will receive these papers when you clear in at your first stop.
2) Clearing In - There are several islands that you can go to clear in with Customs and Immigration. Review your guide books and charts for specific islands with such services. Many cruisers we met cleared in at Bimini, or West End Grand Bahama. We cleared in at Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands for our first trip and found the process very pleasant. You must fly a yellow quarantine flag when you enter Bahamian waters until you have cleared in. Once cleared in, you should fly the Bahamian courtesy flag.
3) Bring cash - Many Bahamian islands will charge a surcharge (3%-5%) for using a credit card, that is, if they accept credit cards at all. Bahamian currency is on par with the US dollar, and most bank ATM’s will only dispense Bahamian dollars. Either one is accepted on all islands.
4) Provisioning - The larger islands have fairly good grocery stores, but many of the smaller islands rely on mail boats delivering dry goods and produce and can often be sparse. Make sure you bring favourite foods in good quantities that may be hard to find. Food is very expensive in the Bahamas, sometimes two or three times as much as you might pay in the US or Canada.
5) Telephones - Bring an unlocked cell phone/iPad that will allow you to use the BaTelCo sim card and cellular service and/or data plan throughout most of the Bahama islands. Now, even in the most remote islands, there is cell phone service, but finding a phone booth with a working telephone is another matter altogether!
Getting Repair Parts while in The Bahamas
If you run into a situation and need to have parts flown in from the US to the Bahamas, our experience was extremely positive in Staniel Cay. We used Watermakers Air, who have an office right at the Staniel Cay Marina. We had a fuel tank brought in with them for only U.S.$45 which included the $10 administration charge. Service was quick and friendly, and spending time at Staniel Cay while you are waiting for your parts is not bad either. There are flights in/out of there several times a day.
George Town, Bahamas
If you are planning a trip to the southern Exuma islands, I would recommend a stop in George Town. It is a very unique place, and one many cruisers call home for the winter. Some key points that will help you during your stay are listed below, as well as websites that provide the most up to date information.
George Town Cruisers Net VHF channel 72, at 8am
Pump-outs and Water taxi should be hailed on VHF channel 16
VHF channel 68 is used for hailing other boats in the harbour or making general announcements.
WIFI can be purchased from St. Francis Resort daily, but I recommend purchasing a sim card from a Batelco office and purchasing one of the prepaid data plans for your iPad and/or cell phone.
Water jugs can be filled for free at the dinghy dock behind the Exuma Market grocery store.
Propane fills can be purchased in George Town (listen to morning announcements on VHF 72 at 8am.
georgetowncruisingregatta.com For information specific to the annual regatta organized by cruisers for cruisers.
bahamascruisers.com - For a comprehensive document on everything Bahamas, including George Town.